Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Flu business

Flu, especially the new swine flu, H1N1, is major business in Romania. After all, why this wouldn't have a huge and corrupt money making scheme around it?

The beauty of the situation started to develop a few months ago. By introducing containment rules well after all other countries at similar pandemic levels moved from the fundamentally useless containment stage to treatment stage, Romania was still closing schools, introducing quarantine regulations and sealing off hospitals... This was very useful for having certain companies get certain contracts via certain channels in order to procure and sell absolutely useless masks for example in the tens of thousands.

In case there is doubt, the masks on sale were of the very everyday type, hugely overpriced, sold to hospitals with vast profit margins, and the punchline is that these masks had holes about 3 times the size of the virus in question. Essentially, buying and then using these masks against the flu virus was exactly as effective as buying and using a fishnet to protect one against rain...

But then in true proto-capitalist post-communist manner, Romanian authorities and the Government developed their flu business further.

The Government has launched a competition for distributors of the anti-viral pills (Tamivir and Zanamivir). On the surface, well, it was a normal affair, having companies bid for the lucrative rights of distributing the drug.

But the devil lies in the detail.

The requirements posed by the Government were astonishingly precise... the list described exactly how many warehouses of what size (in square meters) in how many and which exact cities the winner company has to have...

It also described with interesting details the exact required number of vans and response times the company has to have.

When confronted with the obvious fact that these interestingly precise numbers happen to favour very clearly a certain company, namely Europharm, the Government defended the list of requirements and pointed out that these details are actually just copied from its pandemic prevention handbook.

Actually, as one may guess oh so accurately, the mentioned 'book' contains no such details...

So essentially the flu pandemic is another typical Romanian affair... all the boxes are ticked, all the legal checkpoints satisfied, but under the surface, it is the same corrupt machination as everything else, simply putting money in certain pockets via biased and pre-set deals struck before any contract bid was filed by anyone.

The current bill is 20 million Euros, and one has to ask what proportion of that is purely channeled via such corrupt deals and so-called contract negotiations, while the death toll has risen, number of cases is shooting up exponentially and the Government is just interested in shady dubious money making on the back of the oh-so-scary virus...

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